GREEN BAY, Wis. – After Green Bay Packers rookie safety Dallin Leavitt hurt his shoulder in the preseason opener in San Francisco, coach Matt LaFleur had a ton of ominousness.
“He’s going to be out for a while,” LaFleur said.
Typically, this is LaFleur-speak for a significant injury. Leavitt would likely make the opening 53-man roster before going on injured reserve to continue his recovery. And then, at some point deep into the season, he would potentially be back in action.
“Yeah, I’ll be honest, I think most people probably felt that way in the building, too, ‘He’s going to be out for a while,'” Leavitt said after returning to practice Sunday. “I just can’t live like this, you know what I mean? I’m not okay to be out, so I’m going to do everything I can to get back.”
That he is back – or at least on the way back – seems remarkable. Late in the first half against the 49ers on August 12, Leavitt delivered a bad hit to Ray-Ray McCloud that forced a fumble. As Krys Barnes scooped up the loose ball, Leavitt lay on the court writhing in pain.
“Yeah, it was painful,” Leavitt said with a smile. “It’s on tape. You can see how much pain I was in. It was excruciatingly painful, I’ll just put it that way. Definitely the most painful injury – pure pain – that I’ve ever had.”
Leavitt had spent the past week rehabbing the field. On Sunday, he went through individual training. Leavitt was careful not to declare himself good to go for Week 1. He is wearing a DonJoy Sully shoulder brace to limit movement. While he hasn’t said it, it seems his comeback is a bit of a test. What does he treat a day? Can he afford a little more in the next one?
This may be an apples-to-oranges comparison, but after injuring his shoulder last year, Jaire Alexander returned to practice on Dec. 8 but didn’t play for more than six weeks.
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After the long layoff, Leavitt said he felt like he was running on “deer legs.”
“I’m still a long way from where I want to be,” he said. “I don’t want to talk too much about it in that sense, but I have some targets that I’m not going to put out there. I just want to take it day by day. I just know that every day I come in here with the athletic training staff and I try to do the best I can to be healthy and when we go out in the weight room and run around practice, I’m trying to be healthy and be healthy. strong so I can go out there and play.”
The Packers jumped when Leavitt was released by the Raiders on July 20. Last season, he led the Raiders in special teams tackles. Those punting units were led by Rich Bisaccia, who is now Green Bay’s special teams coordinator. Leavitt and Bisaccia are close and off the field. When Leavitt came to Green Bay to sign, it was Bisaccia who stayed with his family.
Leavitt quickly became a No. 1 in all four phases of special teams. The fact that he could only be the fifth safety was irrelevant to his potential role in healing Green Bay’s consistently awful special teams.
“When you go up against Aaron Rodgers on offense, I think the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you have to know what you’re doing,” Bisaccia said recently. “I like to think when you run into Dallin Leavitt, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You have to know what you’re doing, and he’s been through that process.”
While Leavitt downplayed his potential importance to those units, there’s no denying what he could mean as a proven performer who can serve as an extension of Bisaccia on the field.
“Special teams is really different than offense and defense,” Leavitt said. “Think: If you’re running left and the right corner is hanging or the right receiver just stays outside, it doesn’t really affect the play. I think on special teams, if somebody is out of their gap or somebody misses their assignment, it can ruin the whole game. I’ll just make my eleventh. I don’t want to say, because I’m not, that I’m more important or more important than any other guy on our special teams unit. I am only one-eleventh of who we are, and what must be done.”
Sunday’s Packers injury report
Did not practice: OL Elgton Jenkins (knee), TE Nate Becker, TE Alize Mack, S Innis Gaines (hamstring), DT Akial Byers (ankle).
Back to practice: S Darnell Savage (hamstring), S Dallin Leavitt (shoulder).